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Why The Cloud Matters

Disclaimer: I work, live, and play with whiners and I’m one of them

Why The Cloud Matters or “What Can You Can Do to Stop Whining and Join The Cloud”
By: Bill Mathews

Disclaimer: I work, live, and play with whiners and I’m one of them. It’s that group of geeks that just don’t “get it”, they just have a problem living in the modern world. “I don’t need to change, I’m fine the way I am.” You know the ones I’m talking about. Like I said, I’ve been one for a really long time. This is a problem, mainly for the progress of technology and its assistance in the evolution of humankind (or when the robots want to actually take over the world) but there are other problems too.

Recently I’ve undergone quite a dramatic shift in my thinking. I’ve started actually trying new things and I have to say I’m probably a better (or maybe less bad person) for it. I’ve gone all in for the Amazon cloud stuff and Google’s SaaS stuff is making me really happy lately. In fact, this blog post’s draft was written in Google Docs, how’s THAT for progress? I’m such a fan of the cloud I’m even attempting to use my beloved iPad with Apple’s new iCloud service – the one they claim will really spark the “post-pc revolution.” Sounds fun, right? I might have more on that later. At any rate, this post is entirely Apple’s fault, just so you know where my state of mind is.

CAUTION: Learning Required

You see, the promise of the cloud is that you, essentially, have a limitless capacity and only have to pay for what you use. It’s a simplification but that’s currently the promise of running your stuff in a bigger entity’s data centers and in their cloud. You can “play with the big dogs” as it were and that’s a good thing, it’s a leveling of that playing field. I’ve been involved in data center build outs, they’re expensive, time consuming, and are hardly ever over capacity. In fact, of the ones I’ve been involved with (maybe 100 at this point?) I can only think of two that were actually over capacity. Call it poor planning, explosive growth, whatever…it’s a pretty big trend. You see they can take years to plan and build and just when you get finished something always happens that needs more. This was the promise of virtualization, you would need less servers and less resources, etc. to run more stuff. How is that working out for you?

The cloud basically takes the promise of virtualization (utilizing all resources on a given piece of hardware) and of big data centers (power, cooling, network scale) and merges them into one thing: The Cloud. With the cloud I am able to do things that, previously, were simply not feasible for your average small business. For instance, I can run a website that scales up for a product launch and then reverts as the excitement dies down. I don’t have to buy expensive hardware and I don’t have to hire a team of highly skilled network folks to keep it running, it mostly “just works”. I can also build a new product in the cloud and test it out, again without incurring ramp up costs, etc. The architecture grows with me without support renewals or ridiculous upgrade paths.

Of course, all this great stuff does come at a cost. You lose a certain amount of control over the content you’re putting up there. For instance, you no longer control the routing or underlying system (not counting the virtual image if you’re in to such things). In fact you can “cloudify” things so much that you control next to nothing. This is one of the other benefits though. In most cloud setups you’re in charge of what you lose control of, it’s not typically all or nothing. The other cost, to me anyway, is more of a myth than anything and that’s security.

The fact you think you lose a lot of security when you move something into the cloud shows a basic lack of knowledge of how the Internet works. If you manage your cloud move right you will have just as much, if not more, security than you did when you hosted your application or data. Your web application is as exposed there as it would be on your site. This is especially true if you are a smaller place without the budget for a large IT staff or security folks. Now not all cloud providers are created equal so you have to do your due diligence with the provider, make sure they’re doing all the right things and you’ll be fine.

Back to the topic at hand, why does the cloud matter? That’s an easy one. The cloud matters because IT has failed. IT for the most part has failed to deliver scalable solutions to their enterprises, scalable AND easy to use. I’m not talking about easy to use for an IT user but for a user who has other jobs to do, like payroll or HR related duties. That person does not want to know about all the problems you have rolling out a Sharepoint portal, he just wants a digital spot to work with his team on their latest project. Furthermore, that person does not care that you don’t have the bandwidth for video conferencing or that you haven’t personally tested the latest web based meeting software. They just want to web meet and video conference. I’ve never seen another industry other than IT where complaining and whining about how hard your job is seems to be the norm. It’s supposed to be hard, that’s why they call it work.

Anyway, the cloud matters because IT is very lost. The cloud matters because users need scalable and easy to use solutions. The cloud matters because in the next few years mobile applications will really start to heat up and the apps will need to scale accordingly. The cloud matters because if you’re a forward thinking IT person (they do exist) you will want to provide those solutions to your users and NOT have your users provide them to you. That’s the quickest way to become an obsolete IT guy. Most importantly though, the cloud matters because it enables smaller business to really compete with larger companies. It’s field-leveling is unparalleled compared to other technologies.

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Christina O’Neill has been working in the information security field for 3 years. She is a board member for the Northern Ohio InfraGard Members Alliance and a committee member for the Information Security Summit, a conference held once a year for information security and physical security professionals.